Tag Archives: being true to yourself

#SATurday: Authors, Be Yourself

9 May

#SATurday: Authors, Be Yourself

As an author—but also as a marketer—I am constantly stressing the importance of being true to yourself and being true to your work. For instance, it’s a popular question to ask an author how long it took them to write a story. In turn, this has caused millions of debates about how long it should take. The infamous Stephen King, for example, has been quoted saying that writing a first draft shouldn’t take longer than three months, the length of a season. And to that, I say, pish posh. (Respectfully, of course.)

To me, it is ALWAYS more important to be true to the story than to meet a deadline. I mean, George R.R. Martin practically dedicated his life to writing A Song of Ice and Fire (a.k.a. Game of Thrones for you HBO fans), and he’s labeled as a serial fantasy genius. His first draft, I doubt, only demanded three months. But he didn’t care. All he cared about was writing it, so he wrote it, and he took as much time as he wanted to write it.

So what does this have to do with you?

Well, I see a lot of authors getting frazzled over writing advice or reading discussions or publishing debates or marketing tips or (insert panic now as I continue listing uncountable reasons for authors to worry). And it isn’t worth it. None of these worries are worth an author’s identity. Be you. That’s my number one rule when I talk to my clients about social media marketing as we create a plan for them. As an example, if you hate Facebook, stay off of it. There’s no reason you should be worrying yourself silly about likes and shares and outreach when you could be on Twitter with your favorites and retweets and hashtags. There’s no reason you should be throwing your precious writing time away for all the millions of things the Internet demands you to do, because—I’ll let you in on a little secret—no one can do it all. No one. So, it’s better to just do what you want to do.

beyou

This doesn’t go to say that this is easy. It’s not. There are many temptations that sneak into our time slots. It’s easy to be on Facebook and see an author who has 10,000 more likes than you and feel like you have to do what they do in order to get to where they are. But we have to stop focusing on getting to “where they are” and start focusing on getting to “where you want to be”. I get it. That can be a little confusing, especially when you “want” to be where they are. Those 10,000 likes look nice after all. But those are THEIR 10,000 likes. Those exact same 10,000 likes are not going to be the 10,000 likes you want for you and your book. You want your own 10,000 likes—likes you achieve by being you. But this is exactly where I see a popular problem arise. Authors are so focused on getting “more” followers that they forget to dedicate time to the followers they already have. The goal is not followers. The goal is being yourself.

That being said, you can definitely have more goals and look up to someone—admire their work ethic, respect their status, learn from them, etc.—but remind yourself that you are going to achieve your own goals your own way, and there’s no need to copy what others are doing. As an example, one author kept sharing exactly what another author with a larger follower was sharing. That’s not going to work. That’s not going to do anything. Why? Here are three reasons:

  1. Someone is already doing it.
  2. You’re trying to be them, not you.
  3. You’re sharing it for the wrong reasons. (For followers, not because you enjoy it.)

You have to be you and do what you want to do. When you do that, you will come through as a unique and wonderful voice, and people who like you will find you. There’s no need to worry or debate or copy or steal or take shots at one another.

Just be you, and everything else will fall into place.

~SAT

Thank you for the announcement, Boo Boo.

Thank you for the announcement, Boo Boo.

Are you a writer? As many of you know, I have guest bloggers every Monday. I accept original posts about anything to do with writing and reading. It can be as complicated as in-depth writing tips to as simple as how your favorite series affected your life. You do not have to be published to be a guest blogger. Bios, links, and photos are encouraged. Please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com if you’re interested.

#SATurday: I Am Not Special

7 Feb

#SATurday: I Am Not Special

Some nights, I do not feel like writing – but, in all honesty, I understand that I do feel like writing. After all, I always do. Even when I “hate” it, I redefine my hate as fighting through a passionate struggle – or I label it with some other momentary expression to explain my lack of love. It is a temporary disconnect, one that always – and undoubtedly – heals. That being said, a contradiction timelessly arises.

What happened to all my passions I disconnected with forever?

Allow me to clarify…I truly believe writing is my all-time passion, my purpose in life, per se, but there have been other activities I have loved and admired and explored and lost. While I’ve always wanted to be a writer, my preschool self wanted to try cheerleading, and my later school years brought basketball, yearbook, photography, track, tennis, gymnastics, a part-time job, and a little club called Goal 0 into my life – all while moving around and writing novels in my free time.

I guess I could call myself an overachiever – at least, at that age – but I never considered myself one. There was always a boy who went to school more than I did or a girl who ran faster or a new kid who had lived in more places than I have.

I’ve never seen myself as special.

Although those six words may sound dreary or in desperate need of some self-confidence training, I don’t read them that way. I look at them backward.

“Special as myself seen never I’ve.” may not make sense, so please allow me to reword it slightly to explain further:

Special as myself, seen never have I.

To me, focusing on oneself too much does not allow us to truly see the world around us. In contrast – because I always love a good contradiction – I believe we must know ourselves before we can help others or the world, but stretching self-knowledge into too much self-importance is where we destroy ourselves and each other.

four2

The ways that make us special are not meant to outshine another person’s unique traits. When I was younger, I did not understand that, so I overcompensated to try to seal a hole in my heart I held toward myself, and some days, I still succumb to this pain. I am human, after all.

During times I consider myself to be overcompensating, I have fleeting but terrifying emotions that consume me. Instead of realizing that I am already helping people, I irrationally desire to become special because I believe that “special” label will finally allow me to help others. In fact, I believe it will be the only way for me to achieve my goals. This is where my soul’s focus is confused. No matter what happens, I now feel as if I am failing, even when I am not, so I continue to push, push, and push forward – often, in the wrong direction – as if it will help, and the longer it continues, the harder I push. This is a breeding ground for overcompensation.

During overcompensation I fail to recognize the destructive nature of this thought-process – how it can deter your focus, warp your goals, and desensitize your true wish that you want to fulfill. In the example above, this happened when I thought being “special” would allow me to help people rather than simply trying to help people.

In writing, we often see this happen in the writer who always talks about writing but never actually writes – and oddly enough, that is how I began this piece, and in reality, that is also how I’m ending it. I am not an exception, I am not perfect, and I am not special. And I am accepting how perfectly okay I am with that.

Being special isn’t about sticking out or labeling someone as unique or even changing the world. It is about fighting every day to be honest about who you truly are while finding the energy to fulfill your life role in whatever way you decide it should be. Whether or not you change the world does not matter in the end.

In the end, the important lesson is not to see yourself as special, but to see the world for what it is and everything we can be every day.

I don’t see myself as special.

I am too focused on seeing the life all around me. Perhaps, it’ll even inspire me to write again.

~SAT on #SATurday

Censoring Myself in the Publishing World

10 Jul

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Censoring Myself in the Publishing World

It’s hard to be yourself in an art industry – as strange as that sounds.

Correction: It’s hard for me to be %100 myself 24/7 in the publishing industry. Perhaps this a fact of life – not just something in the publishing industry – but I have found myself censoring myself about my lifestyle because I’m afraid that I will lose readers if they don’t agree with me. (Personally, I don’t see why we have to agree about everything, but this still happens.) This happens in and outside the publishing world, but I wanted to share the topics I struggle with as an author in order to help other authors talk about their personal troubles. I also hope to take my first step at being %100 honest without fear of reader rejection.

So here is a list of things I have been afraid to mention before:

Books I Dislike and Like:

This isn’t about if they are good or not. I am a firm believer in the fact that books can both be good and be disliked. My personal example of this is Divergent. I just could not get into it. I could not wrap my mind around a society the forces you to be only ONE thing, and the color scheme seemed too simple for such a complex topic. I also felt like it had a lot of religious undertones that made me very uncomfortable. That being said, I still think Veronica Roth is a fantastic writer. I can see a variety of reasons to love it. I can appreciate her prose. On the opposite spectrum, I enjoyed Twilight. There. I said it. Granted, I was 14 when I read it, so it was also marketed to girls my age at the time. I actually remember buying Twilight after a friend told me about it and being reluctant only to go back the very next day to buy the second book that had just released. It wasn’t until much later that I considered the themes in it – when others saw it as abusive, I saw it as just a story – just entertainment. Either way, it still makes me really sad when readers hate on other readers, so that’s why I think I censor myself about my personal book tastes. I don’t want a fan to think I’m attacking their favorite book, because I understand how personal a book can mean to a reader, how much joy and heartbreak can come when a reader loses themselves in a story and how destructive it can feel when others try to tear it to pieces.

I smoke hookah and I drink:

I’m 23, so both of these acts are legal for me, but I try not to mention this about myself because my readers are primarily young adults, and I don’t want to encourage them to do either of the things. As a contradiction, my next novel, Take Me Tomorrow, deals with a lot of themes about drugs in society, including the youth. The sad fact is that many young adults find themselves involved with drugs. This a reality. But my biggest fear is someone telling me their kid blamed me for trying hookah or trying a drink. Here’s another ugly truth: my mother died from a drug overdose. They were legal painkillers prescribed to her. So I know the deadly consequences that can derive from drug use, legal or not. Perhaps – because of my various experiences – I am sensitive to how people perceive me in regards to the drugs in my upcoming novel. Who knows? When I’m asked in interviews “Where do you write?” I find myself struggling to answer honestly, “In a local hookah house.” Because I don’t want other kids to smoke because I smoke occasionally. I know it’s bad for you. I understand this. I am only afraid readers will somehow think I am saying it’s good for you when I’m not.

From Post Advertising

From Post Advertising

Depression associated with publishing:

It happens. I have days where I struggle – just like any person in any industry – but there seems to be a strange stigma associated with artists. If we complain, we aren’t grateful. If we complain, we are selfish because there are so many writers who wish they were published. But can’t we be honest? Can’t we say it’s hard? Can’t we feel sad sometimes, too?

Characters I’ve based off of people:

I don’t directly and purposely try to base my characters off of people in my life, but – as time passes – I can see strong correlations. Still, I am terrified of admitting to my relationships (friends or not) with these people because many of these people are no longer in my life. It feels rude. It feels selfish. Maybe I’ll get over it. Maybe I won’t. But sometimes – when I realize this – I miss them. I miss the characters that were once my closest friends. And I have struggled to even make friends. Since I moved around a lot as a child, friends didn’t last very long. We always moved. But losing friends when I still lived in the same area was an extremely difficult part of my teenage years. I didn’t have to deal with it until I was 15 – and it was hard. Really hard. I couldn’t comprehend how someone I confided in could turn their back on me (or how I managed to turn my back on others.) So when those characters clear up, it can be confusing and unreal and strange, so it’s much easier to deny the possibility that my characters might – in fact – be them.

Certain scenes:

When I was younger, it was easier to be true to the story. I didn’t care what readers thought of a controversial scene, but now I find myself changing them or cutting them out completely – mainly because I or people I have met have gone through many of these trials and I don’t want to stigmatize the victims. I don’t want to hurt them. I don’t want to trigger something.

My personal life:

So you know I have a cat. You know I live in Kansas. You know that I work for AEC Stellar as an author and an employee. You know I lost my mother at a young age and my college roommate. But you don’t know how much I mentally struggle to believe that I created a relatable female character because I struggle to relate to females in general (which I think stems from the fact that I was mainly raised by my father and brother, therefore feeling more comfortable around males.) I’m also more comfortable writing as a male, and when readers ask me about it, I get really uncomfortable about it, because I don’t even know why. To clarify, I’m not uncomfortable with the fact that I enjoy writing as a boy; I get uncomfortable when someone tries to make sense of it, like there has to be a reason for it. I – on the other hand – just want to accept it for what it is. The only other topic I would like to clarify on is that I am not just a “cat person.” I grew up with dogs, and I love and miss my husky, Shadow. (So much so that Argos in Take Me Tomorrow is based off of him.) He was in my life for 15 years. If I had a yard and the proper time and money for a puppy, I would get one. But I don’t. So I have my cat, Bogart, and I love him very much. But I love cats and dogs and pretty much every animal on the planet.

There are ugly parts of everyone’s life and art, but – even though it is common – it is hard to confess to those darker moments. That being said, confessing to those thoughts can help others who struggle with truths they avoid. I like to believe that my “ugly” parts aren’t ugly at all. I am human. That’s what makes us artists.

Feel free to share those things you avoid mentioning below! It’s quite a freeing moment, and I’m glad to share my struggles here, especially if it helps other artists come out with their struggles!

~SAT

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